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Focus Electric needs more range
By Arthur Pollock/ BostonHerald.com
Saturday, November 17, 2012


     
     The long and winding road to building a better electric car continues, though it is a very long road, indeed. Case in point is the Focus Electric, the first passenger vehicle from Ford to be powered solely by electricity.
     
     It looks like a gas-powered Focus and rides like one, too. So far, so good.
     
     Unfortunately, you won’t be going very far. A full charge will only get you about 75 miles down the road (maybe a 100 miles if you drive gingerly). That’s a real deal-breaker for most drivers. Who wants to worry about making it to work or getting home before the battery runs down?
     
     Realistically, electric cars today are only for the well-heeled early adopters, who will use them as a secondary vehicle or simply don’t need to drive long distances.
     
     Having said that, I will say the Focus Electric is a step in the right direction. Not as futuristic-looking as the Nissan Leaf, it charges in half the time. It’s a nice, sporty car with sweeping headlights and a stylish, Aston Martin-type grille.
     
     A lithium-ion battery system powers the vehicle. The 107-kilowatt motor is only equivalent to a 140-horsepower engine, but since it’s electric it produces 184 ft.-lbs. of torque, providing super-quick acceleration.
     
     Handling is good, with tight cornering and responsive steering. It’s a quiet car, inside and out.
     
     The regenerative brakes are excellent and you can squeeze out a few extra miles by braking gently. One problem with using batteries to power your car is where to put them. Ford didn’t do us any favors by sticking them in the trunk, severely limiting cargo space. The rear seats do fold down, though, when you want more room.
     
     The Ford Electric offers push-button start, dual zone auto climate control, rear-view camera, blind spot mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. High quality sound comes from nine Sony speakers and the MyFord Touch system allows you to control your phone, music, navigation and temperature either by voice or touch. The system works well once you figure out the overly complicated design.
     
     Showing Ford’s eco-consciousness, the seats are made out of recycled materials and the cushions are made of bio-based foam derived from plant seed oils.
     
     Ford has partnered with Best Buy to encourage you to purchase their 240-volt home charger ($1,500) that will give you a full charge in 3-4 hours. If you stick with your regular 120-volt AC outlet, you’re looking at an 18-20 hour charging time. The charging port, located near the driver’s side door, shows you its status with a pleasant blue-glowing ringlight that grows in diameter the longer you charge.
     
     Getting America’s drivers to embrace electric vehicles will be a long-term project, given their limited range. The Tesla Motor Co. makes a drool-worthy model that can go up to 300 miles on a single charge, but it costs upwards of $80,000. Until the infrastructure is in place, whereby you can simply go to your local station for a quick (minutes, not hours) charge, EVs will remain a tough sell.

( -— carsmart@bostonherald.com )

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